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September 23, 2011

Bahrain, UAE Hold Elections

Voters in the Gulf nations of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are casting election ballots on Saturday.

Bahrain is holding parliamentary elections to fill 18 seats that were abandoned by the main opposition party in February.  The Shi'ite lawmakers in the Wefaq party quit to protest the government's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

In the UAE, voters hand picked by the Emirates' rulers are casting ballots to elect half of the members of a federal advisory council. The emirates' rulers appoint the remaining council members.

Bahrain's opposition said earlier that it would boycott the election. Also, candidates for four of the 18 seats have already won their races because they ran unopposed.

Witnesses in Bahrain say Saturday's voter turnout has been very light. However, a state media report quotes the country's Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa as saying a "massive" turnout has revealed the willingness of citizens to be partners in building democracy and national unity.

Earlier this year, clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters left about 40 people dead. Bahrain's Shi'ite majority has been demanding more rights from the ruling Sunni minority.

Saturday's balloting in the UAE is only the second of its kind in the country's history.  The advisory council has no legislative powers and can only make recommendations to the ruling body.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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